The Bodhisatta was once a goose living in the Himalayas. Every day, while flying to and from the lake where he fed, he stopped to rest on a large Judas tree and became good friends with the tree fairy that dwelled in it. One day a bird defecated a banyan tree seed into one of the Judas tree’s crooks. When it had grown into a sprout, the Bodhisatta noticed it and told the tree fairy that banyans kill every tree they grow on, so he should pick it off. But the tree fairy wanted to let it grow and care for it like a child. The Bodhisatta said he was a fool and stopped visiting the Judas tree. Eventually the banyan engulfed the Judas tree just as the Bodhisatta had said it would, and the tree fairy lost his home. He regretted not following the Bodhisatta’s advice.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Five hundred friends had heard the Buddha discuss dharma, and they renounced the world together to become his disciples. One night thoughts of desire filled their heads, and the Buddha knew about it, so he called an assembly and told them this story to illustrate how a sin as small as a banyan seedling can become disastrous. When the Buddha was finished, all five hundred disciples became arahants.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.